Getting Started

Successful prospecting looks different for every advisor. Personality, location, industry, bandwidth, and more impact what works best for you. However, there are common themes we see in successful advisors. One is mastering the use of communication channels — email, LinkedIn, and phone. Here are some best practices to help you better utilize them and get in front of more 401(k) prospects:


Email is one of the most accessible forms of prospecting. It provides an opportunity to reach a large number of prospects, introduce yourself, and extend a no-pressure invitation to connect. With so many people working from home today, email takes on an even greater significance. However, it takes skill to ensure your email doesn’t end up lost in the shuffle. These are tips to keep when emailing prospects:

Clearly Define Your Message

Your prospects are busy, you must be concise and direct in your message to a prospect to avoid losing their attention. You need to quickly establish your credibility and create interest by communicating:

1. Who are you?

Introduce yourself and your services in 1–2 sentences. The first sentence of your messages is crucial in grabbing their attention to continue reading. If you were referred or have a mutual connection, lead by mentioning this to build rapport.

2. What can I do for you?

Concisely define how you can add value to your prospect. Prospects must know why they should speak with you, and it boils down to how you can help them. One effective way to do this is to frame it in terms of how you are helping current clients today — what are the biggest problems you are solving for them. 

3. What is next?

Be clear in your suggestion for the next step (e.g. a meeting). You should be (1) be direct and (2) present yourself as an expert sharing information and not a salesperson. Both of these will impact a prospect’s decision of whether to respond. 

Personal Touch

Prospects must know that you are reaching out to them personally — it helps you stand out and increases your likelihood of receiving a response. The use of the prospect’s name, a slightly informal tone, and reference to their background goes a long way. A helpful exercise is to review your inbox for sales emails and look at which ones grabbed your attention and which didn’t. Likely, the ones that were either impersonal or too generic to understand we’re immediately deleted. The same is true of your prospects.


People often won’t look beyond the subject or first sentence of an email before deciding whether to continue reading. Grab your reader’s attention quickly — your first sentence is the most important. A short email body respects your prospect’s time, forces you to succinctly convey your message, and encourages the prospect to read through the entire message including your request for the next steps. 

Multiple Touches

Emails linger in an inbox, making them convenient and accessible. Conversely, they can be easily lost in the shuffle. Sending a sequence of emails over a period of time helps with two things: (1) it spreads your message over a series of digestible notes, and (2) it increases your chance of catching them at a good time. Timing is a crucial part of a prospect’s decision-making. Many CRM tools provide the ability to automate a series of personally written emails at a chosen frequency, saving time and helping you cast a wider net. HubSpot and Yesware are two tools with this capability. 


Having a presence on LinkedIn creates an opportunity to show prospects that you are a person, not just a company. It allows you to establish your credibility, present yourself as a thought leader, and communicate the human element associated with you and your work. This increases your chance for success as people are much more open to hearing from a human as opposed to a company. Here are some ways to leverage this platform in your outreach:

Researching Prospects

LinkedIn is a great place to research work experience, mutual connections, interests, and hobbies. This helps you better understand your prospects and their association with a plan. Where a prospect went to school, favorite sports teams, and philanthropic groups they support help you to better understand the prospect as a person and provides an opportunity for personalization in your outreach, which eases prospects.

Connect with Prospects

Connecting with your prospects on LinkedIn establishes a more direct element in your outreach and is a different way to grab prospect attention — people don’t receive as many LinkedIn requests as emails. Be sure to send a personalized invite with a connection request referencing a commonality (e.g. interest, hobby, mutual connection) or politely introduce yourself as a financial professional working in their area/industry looking to grow your network. As with emails, politeness and brevity go a long way.

Success Stems from Personalization

LinkedIn is most effective when personal. Having the same generic messages can damage your rapport if it comes off as impersonal. Leveraging LinkedIn connections in tandem with email and phone outreach is effective in building your “brand” with prospects. 

The Bump

An effective yet subtle use of LinkedIn is incorporating “the bump” into your outreach. After engaging with a prospect via an email or a phone call, the lead can get cold. Maybe you’ve sent them a follow-up email or left them a voicemail with no response. How do you give them a nudge to continue the conversation? Send them a LinkedIn invitation. If you are connected, like a recent post of theirs or comment on one. This serves as a non-confrontational reminder of your conversation with them.

Phone Calls

Cold calling: the most time consuming yet rewarding form of outreach to prospects. Phone calls give you time and “room” to comfortably introduce yourself, share your message, and connect with them in a personal way, which is at the heart of all of your relationships with your clients. Phone prospecting forces you to be calm and collected while thinking quickly on your feet to answer questions and overcome their objections. Here are a few tips for better outreach with cold calling:

Set the Tone

The first step to having a successful cold call is setting the tone. There are endless situations you can catch someone in the middle of when they answer your call. Speak calmly while remaining confident. Subconsciously, this helps them feel comfortable and have a need to match it; humans want to be in-sync with one another. Always open with a phrase like “Hi John, this is Joe with ABC Corp. Did I catch you at a bad time?If they are busy, you can respond with a respectful question “When would be a better time to reach you?” Or, if they’re free, they will let you know and you can continue the conversation.

Establish a Connection

As early in the call as possible, establish a connection pertaining to the reason for your call. It can be direct, like an email you’re following-up on. A good order of outreach is an initial email followed by a phone call. This allows you to ask the question “I’m following up on my email, did you receive it?” Another strong introduction is mutual connections. You can also use examples like a school, geography, or an association you have in common. This helps put prospects at ease and establish a solid foundation to open the call.

Have Something to Offer

It is critical that the prospect feels like they’re receiving value from your call. Understand what needs you can solve for them and clearly communicate that. Then, invite them to take a short follow-up call with you to better understand your story. It is a powerful pitch when you make it clear “I am not trying to sell you something, I merely want to share information with you.” Don’t sell; share.

A Final Note

Prospecting is hard work, but setting up a process pays dividends. Rest assured, you can start small. You do not need to become a prospecting powerhouse overnight. As a practical tip, we recommend starting off only with what you are confident you can handle right now. For example, begin by conquering one communication channel. Once you have a process in place and are comfortable, layer on additional communication channels — say phone calls and email. This strategy will ensure you maximize your efforts, and it will increase the probability of connecting with a prospect at the right place, the right time, and for the right reason to open the conversation.

Illustrations by Freepik Stories.